The Military High Court on Thursday sentenced Maj. (Rtd) Habib Mudathiru to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty on terror-related charges, including joining a criminal group, conspiracy against an established government or the President of the Republic as well as maintaining relations with a foreign government with intentions to wage a war.
Prosecution has requested for a life sentence for Maj. (Rtd) Mudathiru, who pleaded guilty to three of the five charges and sought the courts lenience.
The verdict on Thursday brought to an end a lengthy trial involving Mudathiru and 30 others, which started in December 2019.
The charges relate to their membership in military outfits including the P5 Platform and the National Liberation Front (FLN), which had declared war against the Government of Rwanda. Of the co-accused, 25 were directly under the leadership of Mudathiru.
The former soldier, who was captured in operations inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), before being handed over to Rwanda, denied being behind the formation of the said groups but said that he was just a recruit like others.
Among the accused are six individuals who are considered to be led by Pte Muhire Dieudonné, a soldier in the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), accused of deserting the army, complicity in plotting to overthrow the government by war or forceful means, creating an armed groups and recruiting people to join it, and to participate in terrorist activities.
Other soldiers who are co-accused include Corporal Kayiranga Viateur, Corporal Dusabimana Jean Bosco, Private Igitego Champagnat and Private Jean Bosco Ruhinda , a fugitive, who was prosecuted in absentia.
Court said that Maj. (Rtd) Mudathiru had cooperated pleaded guilty to some charges and furnished the court with information, including acknowledging support they received from the Burundian military, hence a lighter sentence compared to what Prosecution had requested.
He also admitted to training P5 fighters and planning an offensive on the Rwandan territory. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison alongside Pte. Ruhinda and Pte. Muhire.
Patrick Nsanzimana was sentenced to 20 years in prison while Lubwama Suleiman, a Ugandan who was among the accused, and 18 defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison while one individual was acquitted on all charges.
Five of the co-accused were sentenced to eight years in prison while two people, based on mitigating circumstances, were sentenced to five years in prison.
Corporal Dusabimana was sentenced to one year and six months in prison for covering up the crimes and was stripped of his military rank.
On the other hand, Richard Nzafashwanimana, a moto taxi rider who was accused of facilitating the individuals to escape by transporting them to border points where they sneaked out of the country, was sentence to four years for his complicity.
During the lengthy court proceedings, Maj. (Rtd) Mudathiru and others reiterated how they were supported by Ugandan and Burundian military and intelligence to carry out their operations in the region, including mobilizing and recruiting fighters.